John Stark


John Stark was born in Londonderry, New Hampshire, but at eight years old he moved with his family to Manchester, where he spent the rest of his life. In 1752, the young man was captured by Abenaki Indians, who brought him and another prisoner back to their camp. Once there, he so impressed the chief with his skill and bravery that he was made a member of the tribe. By the next year, however, the men’s ransoms had been paid, and they were returned to their home state. Stark married Elizabeth "Molly" Page in 1758, and the two later had eleven children.

John Stark
During the French and Indian War, John served as a second lieutenant and member of Roger’s Rangers, a bold troop of colonial militia. Stark journeyed with the company deep into Quebec, where an Abenaki village resided, but the second-in-command refused to aid the attack, out of respect for his Indian foster parents who lived there. At the end of the war, he returned to Manchester, where remained until he was recalled to military service in the Revolutionary War. Stark was given command of the First and Third New Hampshire Regiments, and he assisted during the Battle of Bunker Hill. His men had arrived as reinforcements, and they immediately set about strengthening the American defenses. At last, when U.S. troops decided to retreat, Stark’s soldiers provided cover for their escape, many of them sacrificing their lives for the mission. While the British were victorious, they suffered heavy losses, and the siege remained at a stalemate until March of the next year, when British General Howe was forced to retreat.

As George Washington prepared to take his troops southward, he offered Stark a command in the Continental Army, which the latter accepted. He and his New Hampshire Line suffered a defeat in Canada before meeting up with Washington in the battles of Princeton and Trenton. Stark was sent home to recruit more troops, but while he was away, he learned that he had been replaced as commander by Colonel Enoch Poor, a cowardly leader with no combat experience. Disgusted, Stark resigned from the Army. Four months later, he was offered the position of Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia, and he accepted on the condition that he would not be answerable to the Continental Army. Shortly thereafter, he was ordered to Saratoga, New York, to reinforce the Army. John refused, instead leading his men against the Hessians at the Battle of Bennington. He won a victory for America and contributed greatly to the later British defeat at Saratoga, widely considered the turning point of the war.

John Stark served until the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, after which he retired to his home in Manchester. In 1809, a celebration was organized to commemorate the Bennington battle. Stark, 81 years old, was too weak to travel, but he sent along a note urging his men to “Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.” The elderly general passed away in 1822, and the phrase Live Free or Die later became the New Hampshire state motto.

Key events during the life of John Stark:

Captured and held prisoner for a time by Abenaki Indians.
French and Indian War.
Married Elizabeth page.
Became a colonel and was given command of the 1st and 3rd New Hampshire Regiments.
  Battle of Bunker Hill.
Became commander of a division of the Continental Army.
Resigned from the Continental Army; later became Brigadier General of the New Hampshire Militia.
  Battle of Bennington.
Retired after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.
Penned the famous phrase 'Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils.'
Live Free or Die became the New Hampshire state motto.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Roger's Rangers  in  Indian History for Young Folks  by  Francis S. Drake
John Stark and the Indians  in  Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans  by  Edward Eggleston
First Thrust—The Battle of Bunker Hill  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall
Burgoyne's Campaign—Bennington and Oriskany  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall

Image Links

John Stark
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Stark captured by Indians
 in Indian History for Young Folks

Stark running the Gauntlet
 in Stories of Great Americans for Little Americans

General Stark at the Battle of Bennington
 in Builders of Our Country: Book II

Short Biography
George Washington Leader of the Continental Army of the U.S. during the Revolutionary War, and first President.
Anthony Wayne Bold and popular Revolutionary War Hero. Well known for victory at Stony Point.
Robert Rogers Leader of a band of mountain men who did great service for Britain during the French and Indian War.